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Gigi

Gigi
Millicent Martin and Lisa O'Hare
Lisa O'Hare is a treasure. Her Gigi is playful, spunky, headstrong—everything you want from the young French girl (unknowingly) on the brink of adulthood. And, man, can she sing. She has a gorgeous soprano voice which is downright perfect. But, more than that, she infuses her singing with character—her opener, "The Earth and Other Minor Things" sounds childlike and innocent. And, in the second act when she sings "In This Wide, Wide World," not only is she making adult decisions, her voice has the added quality of someone tentatively trying out adult emotions. Her performance is so captivating, it's actually surprising that Gigi is not the starring role of the show.

That would be Honore, the older, worldly gentleman who serves as narrator and comments on the romance of youth from the wisdom of age. William Atherton provides a good take on the character—he has charm and wit (with a little naughtiness on the side). His voice is serviceable; he strains a bit when holding notes, but gets the job done. He is well-matched by Millicent Martin as Mamita, the wise woman of the piece, Gigi's grandmother, and (most importantly) a woman with a history with Honore. Atherton and Martin share "I Remember it Well," and their performances get laughs even though we already know every word. There's no bad blood between the characters; Mamita's corrections of Honore's mis-remembrances are gentle and comic—with a hint of getting lost in the memories herself.

The one performance in Reprise's production that's a bit disappointing is that of Matt Cavenaugh as Gaston, Honore's nephew and Gigi's ultimate love interest. Cavenaugh is quite good at the start of the play, when Gaston is bored with his life of Parisian leisure—he's the very personification of ennui. But at the end of the first act, when he sings "Gigi," there should be a transformation going on in Gaston. Cavenaugh plays it a bit for laughs, and never actually gets lost in the song. It's the title song, the end of the first act, and the moment the "Boy" realizes that he actually has some feelings for the "Girl"—it calls for passion and emotion, and Cavenaugh just comes up a bit short.

The musical doesn't quite recover its first act charm after the intermission. Perhaps it's inherent in the piece; once we've gotten as far as Girl Grows Up, and Boy Realizes He Wants Girl, going through all of the Boy Loses Girl motions seems almost perfunctory. Besides, the real spark in this piece is O'Hare's Gigi; when her character is mistreated, the light just dims.

Reprise's small-scale production largely works. The minimal set manages to put the focus on the book and score, where it ought to be. The production is not so much a love letter to Paris, but more a love letter to the good old-fashioned musical. Seeing Gigi on the heels of Dangerous Beauty, the newest musical about a courtesan, it's hard not to make unfair comparisons. But the fact remains that Gigi is a Lerner & Loewe gem that reminds us that they really don't make 'em like this anymore.

Gigi runs at UCLA's Freud Playhouse through February 27, 2011. For tickets and information, see www.reprise.org.

Reprise Theatre Company -- Jason Alexander, Artistic Director; Christine Bernardi Weil, Managing Director; Gilles Chiasson, Producing Director -- presents Lerner and Loewe's Gigi. Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; Music by Frederick Loewe. Scenic Design Tom Buderwitz; Costume Design Kate Bergh; Lighting Design Jared A. Sayeg; Sound Design Philip G. Allen; Associate Music Director Steven Smith; Music Coordinator Joe Soldo; Technical Director Brad Enlow; Production Stage Manager Jill Gold; Casting Director Amy Lieberman, CSA; Press Representative Davidson & Choy Publicity; Marketing Allied Live, LLC; Company Manager Rob Rudolph. Music Direction by Steve Orich; Choreographed by Peggy Hickey; Directed by David Lee.

Cast:
Honore Lachailles - William Atherton
Gaston Lachailles - Matt Cavenaugh
Liane D'Exelmans - Chryssie Whitehead
Maitre D', Violinist, Manuel, Reception, Maitre Du Fresne, Waiter, Telephone Repairman - Jason Graae
Mamita - Millicent Martin
Gigi - Lisa O'Hare
Alicia - Susan Denaker
Ensemble - Angela Ara Brown, Richard Bulda, Luke Lazzaro, Jonathan Sharp, Leslie Stevens, Yvette Tucker.


Photo: Ed Krieger


- Sharon Perlmutter






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